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Fluoroquinolone peripheral neuropathy lawsuits may be centralized

A panel of federal judges will hold a hearing July 30 in San Francisco on whether to centralize litigation against the makers of fluoroquinolone antibiotics. The lawsuits generally allege that fluoroquinolones, or FQs, are linked to irreversible nerve damage.

The following is a list of FQ brands:

  • Avelox
  • Cipro
  • Factive
  • Floxin
  • Levaquin
  • Noroxin

The manufacturers - including Bayer, Johnson & Johnson, and a J&J subsidiary - filed briefs June 10 opposing plaintiffs' motion to transfer 24 cases that were filed in several states to a single court for uniform pretrial management. The alleged victims prefer United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois.

Those who have claimed that the use of an FQ caused their injuries wrote the following to the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation in a May 19 brief: "Each action asserts substantially similar claims and seeks substantially similar relief. In each action, plaintiffs allege, inter alia, that the fluoroquinolones manufactured, designed, tested, packaged, labeled, marketed, advertised, distributed, and/or sold by the Defendants are defective and unreasonably dangerous in that they cause irreversible peripheral neuropathy; that the Defendants marketed distributed, and/or sold the fluoroquinolones without adequate warnings concerning their risks; and that, as a direct and proximate result of use of fluoroquinolones, Plaintiffs suffered serious injuries, physical and mental pain and suffering, as well as economic loss."

So why ask judges to group the cases?

"Because of the scope of the Defendants' conduct," plaintiffs wrote, "it is likely that hundreds (or thousands) of other actions will be filed in jurisdictions throughout the country. Transfer for consolidation and coordination is proper because each of the related Actions and any tag-along cases arise out of the same or similar nucleus of operative facts, arise out of the same or similar alleged wrongful conduct, will involve the resolution of the same or similar questions of fact and law, will involve the same or similar scientific and/or medical evidence, and discovery will be substantially similar and will involve many of the same documents and witnesses."

Fluoroquinolone lawsuit plaintiffs cited scientific findings dating all the way back to 1992 that showed a relationship between FQs and peripheral neuropathy, essentially asserting that the manufacturers should have known about and informed about the risk accordingly.

Those who have filed a fluoroquinolone peripheral neuropathy lawsuit have more recent science on their side as well. For instance, the medical journal Neurology published a summary of a U.S. study conducted from 2001 to 2011 that tracked male FQ patients.

"We identified 6,226 cases and 24,904 controls," the study's authors wrote, setting the stage for their conclusion. "Current users, especially new users of FQs, are at a higher risk of developing PN [peripheral neuropathy]. Despite the increase in the use of FQs, clinicians should weigh the benefits against the risk of adverse events when prescribing these drugs to their patients."

The science behind the peripheral neuropathy risk was so compelling that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had to step in. In an Aug. 16, 2013, FDA podcast, U.S. Public Health Service Pharmacist Lt. Cmdr. Jennifer Shepherd explained, "On Aug. 15, 2013, the FDA issued a Drug Safety Communication notifying the public it has required the drug labels and Medication Guides for all fluoroquinolone antibacterial drugs be updated to better describe the serious side effect of peripheral neuropathy. This serious nerve damage potentially caused by fluoroquinolones may occur soon after these drugs are taken and may be permanent."

Shepherd continued, "The risk of peripheral neuropathy occurs only with fluoroquinolones that are taken by mouth or by injection. Approved fluoroquinolone drugs include levofloxacin (brand name Levaquin), ciprofloxacin (brand name Cipro), moxifloxacin (brand name Avelox), norfloxacin (brand name Noroxin), ofloxacin (brand name Floxin), and gemifloxacin (brand name Factive). The topical formulations of fluoroquinolones, applied to the ears or eyes, are not known to cause this risk."

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, which is a division of the National Institutes of Health, explains how serious peripheral neuropathy can become.

"Symptoms can range from numbness or tingling, to pricking sensations (paresthesia), or muscle weakness," the institute wrote. "Areas of the body may become abnormally sensitive, leading to an exaggeratedly intense or distorted experience of touch (allodynia). In such cases, pain may occur in response to a stimulus that does not normally provoke pain. Severe symptoms may include burning pain (especially at night), muscle wasting, paralysis, or organ or gland dysfunction. Damage to nerves that supply internal organs may impair digestion, sweating, sexual function, and urination. In the most extreme cases, breathing may become difficult, or organ failure may occur."

Regardless of whether the judges centralize federal fluoroquinolone lawsuits, FQ patients who were diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy may want to consult an attorney to determine whether they are entitled to compensation for their medical expenses, lost wages and other losses.

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